Students “are learning to research with a purpose and back up their facts, which is the kind of learning Common Core expects,” said principal Danny Ramsey.

From the outside looking in on Christy Collins’ seventh-grade language arts class at Baldwyn Middle School in Mississippi, it might seem odd to find students surfing the internet and perusing articles on everything from professional football to the latest make-up.

But they are actually learning. The class of almost 30 students is quiet enough to hear a pin drop.

“Right now, they’re looking for examples of compound and complex sentences,” Collins said. “Once they find them, they write them down and turn them in. When they have the freedom to read what they like, they retain the material much better.”

Collins said the students also use the Kindles in school to research topics and current events. For instance, earlier in the week, students were assigned to research a number of Christmas facts and organize their findings into a presentation for the class.

“The kids are sorting through information, determining what is useful and relevant and what is not, then taking their new knowledge and using it for something. It’s much more interactive than me standing at the board and lecturing them,” she said.

This sort of autonomy in learning will do well to help students prepare for the impending Common Core state standards, said Baldwyn Middle School Principal Danny Ramsey.